Social Justice and the Climate Crisis

Western culture is rooted in the ideals of the scientific method. The idea that we exist in an objective reality and might be able to obtain its secrets through replicable experiments for informed hypotheses has given the West a sense of superiority in the name of progress. Yet despite this foundation in tangible matters and practicality, the men who are championed with building the bolstering reputation of modern science - men like Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Frances Bacon, Paracelsus, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, etc. - pay tribute to the immense influence of spiritual or esoteric materials such as the Emerald Tablets of Thoth and the Corpus Hermeticum, a spiritual philosophy on the nature of “god” and “being,” which stretches all the way back to the dynastic period of Egypt. These ancient spiritual texts provided foundations on which to approach their understanding of the universe.

(Mercurius Trismegistus by Pierre Mussard, 1675)

Since the birth of science, countless spiritual philosophies and approaches have influenced the scientific method as a disciplinary field. Mathematical philosophy, quantum physics, magnetics, and chemistry are confirming much of what mystics have been saying for thousands of years! In fact, throughout ancient and medieval periods of history, the study of fields such as magnetism and chemistry fell under the practice of magic, the occult, or esotericism. These ancient-reaching links are present in today’s progress.

Wolfgang Pauli, considered a founding father of quantum physics, was vocal about the inspiration he gained for his ideas through the study of Gnostic Christianity. Warren Hinesburg, considered the father of quantum mechanics and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for physics, continually asserted that modern science was simply confirming ancient Pythagorean beliefs. George S Lamitrai, Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest, first publicized the Big Bang theory, was inspired by an ancient spiritual debate as to all things emerging from a single point, the primeval one. Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who with no formal training other than that he claimed to receive from God at night, correctly formulated a way to predict the behavior of black holes - despite black holes being virtually unknown during his lifetime! Even the structure of Einstein’s take on Realism, that is the belief that absolutely everything that exists in our universe is just the result of an operation of certain unknowns on linear partial differential equations over a finite space-time reality, which is a modern interpretation of a thousand year old spiritual Sanskrit text from India, the Upanishads.

(a page from one of Ramanujan's journals)

Expansive thinkers of our history have always understood that science and esotericism are different yet parallel interpretations of the world. They are two sides to the same coin questioning what is taken for granted and refusing to accept anything based on blind faith. Both are methods we devise to understand the natural world and hold conceptual images of the world as working models that are able to change and evolve with new discoveries.

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.” - Albert Einstein

Ways in which these two fields share common foundations:

  • Both assume the existence of invisible agencies that may perhaps be persuaded or coaxed into acting a particular way, trying to bring humans the extra-natural ability to manipulate circumstances

  • Both emphasize a strong sense of cause-and-effect

  • Both embody a small collection of general principles which can be adopted to specific situations

  • Modern scientists, like the ancient esoteric brother and sisterhoods, are internationalists, embracing each other’s discoveries and work regardless of nationality, faith, or political ideology.

While complementary and sharing a mission of understanding the mysteries of existence, the two fields of spiritual mysticism and science do diverge on approaches. Magic places emphasis on abstract principles while science elevates experimental results, to replicate and quantify magic. Science looks to obtain objective knowledge of our universe and is concerned with tangible appearances, replicability, and solving the mysteries of the infinite; spirituality is concerned with subjective self knowledge, the inevitable essence of things, and dissolving into the mysteries of the infinite. Simply put, science tries to understand the impossibly-complex, and spiritual mysticism tries to understand the impossibly simple.

Having co-existed so long throughout history, one may wonder where the idea of their opposing relationship became an ambiguous one - even that of potential enemies. A great deal of the animosity between the two draws from the fact that science has always encouraged the questioning of one’s reality, however, religion has, historically, implied the obligation to lean into a precise ideology, doctrine, or system. It is important, however, to distinguish between religion and spirituality, as they are fundamentally different. Dogmatic religious groups may find science a threat, but it is an ally of gnostic spirituality.

In recent centuries, we have seen science fighting back against the idea of blind faith, but in the process of fighting the oppressive ideas of organized religion, they have mistakenly chucked spirituality and the historical occurrences that demonstrate the differentiation between the two under the category of irrelevant. So much so that science insists on ignoring any form of traditional knowledge unless it fits recent study findings and claims. The issue here is that, while our modern world moves quickly, our ancestors have been sequestering knowledge for tens of thousands of years, and so with each “discovery” scientists claim in the natural world, they tend to only be confirming Indigenous knowledge that has been used for millennia. We can see a trend in history books throughout the ages: the assumption that history has moved in a journey from ignorance to more comprehensive ways of understanding how the world works. When traditional knowledge supports their claims, western scientists value this type of timeless input. If it does not, they dismiss it - even if they are unable to explain or find solid grounding. This operates out of the psychology that those who operate strictly and wholly out of the rational side of their brain reject anything that they do not understand or haven’t experienced themselves.

One of the most vital modern-age topics around science and spirituality is the climate crisis. While the confirmation of climate change is scientific, it does not take much digging to find the mystic causes and symptoms. The climate crisis is actually a beautiful acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of our world and all life that resides on it. To recognize that everything is connected is to see that our actions have ramifications, and therefore, we must hold ourselves accountable. When the natural cycles are disrupted or forced to act counter to their well-being, Earth, like all living things, experiences violent disease - disease in the form of broken weather patterns and extreme temperatures, severe storms, wildfires, drought and famine, extinction, etc.

Despite attempts throughout the 1900s and 2000s to bandage more isolated issues, the collective problem has only grown worse. In order to sculpt new solutions, we must accurately analyze the problem, critically examining the systems we have inherited.

Different Weeds, Same Roots: The Connection Between Climate Crisis and Race War

The particular use of a land’s resources by its native inhabitants has long been used as rationale for colonization. The conquest and regulation of territory and natural resources by non-native factions, as well as the domination, exploitation, and extermination of Indigenous peoples, has been justified using many reasons but principle among them being that Natives live sparsely on the land, and so, their ecological lifestyle does not demonstrate the European-rooted idea of territorial authority that deserves to be recognized by law.

In western society, claiming dominion over land means to demonstrate full exploitation of available profitable resources; we see these ideas trickle into and eventually consume laws, moral codes, and lifestyle patterns. Thus, co-existing with nature and other humans in a light manner is both fundamental to Indigenous culture and a cornerstone of their oppression.

The Colonial Capitalism machine is a vast and complex system in which the exploitation of a resource (i.e. people, water, land, nonhuman animals, etc.) is essential to create profit. To better understand the praxis and historical codification of human ideals throughout our history, we look to French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu.

Bourdieu explains that all forms of power require legitimacy, which is created symbolically, as through laws, and culturally, as through factors like fashion trends. These are consistently re-legitimized via interplay of structure (society) and agency (factors at play within structure such as people, corporations, media outlets, etc.).

Culture is the true battleground on which this struggle takes place, as we often see groups of people, such as politicians, in charge of significant portions of our structures using social cultural ebbs and flows to their advantage. Thus governments have always used media and similarly powerful tools to influence our ebbs and flows throughout the different fields, or any social and institutional arenas in which people express dispositions (i.e. our educational system, music, organized religion, fashion, writing, other forms of art, etc.).

As the push for conformity over individualistic freedom throughout cultural capital disrupts harmony, certain agents become marginalized. Cultural capital refers to the different symbolic elements one earns through the associations of a particular social class (i.e. skills, tastes, posture, clothing, mannerisms, material belongings, credentials, etc.). Having knowledge of a specific movie genre, an appreciation for a specific pastime, or a degree from a prestigious university are all forms of cultural capital; it creates a sense of collective identity and group position - a feeling of “people like us” or “our people.”

Cultural capital can manifest in three forms: embodied (e.g. an accent or dialect), objectified (e.g. a luxury sports car or jewelry), or institutionalized (e.g.credentials and qualifications like degrees or titles that symbolize cultural competence and authority).

Bourdieu continues to explain that we begin to see inequality and the creation of hierarchies when certain forms of cultural capital are valued over others or seen as superior. This can help or hinder one’s social mobility as strongly as income or wealth because it plays a vital role in power relations throughout society, providing a “non-economic form of domination and hierarchy.”

This shift from material to symbolic and cultural capital is what, for the most part, conceals the roots of inequality. This is seen today in our education systems. Education promotes social mobility; however, the school system draws unevenly on social and cultural resources. This is seen when a child who has been home-schooled tries to adjust to a traditional classroom setting as well as the ins and outs of the social mannerisms they’ve missed out on; they are lacking a significant amount of cultural capital for this new structure in which they are now an agent.

Habitus refers to the physical embodiment of cultural capital, the deeply ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions that we possess due to experiences in our structure. As a product of early childhood experience, particularly socialization within the family, habitus is created through social rather than individual processes leading to patterns that are enduring and transferable from one context to the other. It is neither a result of free will nor by the will of structures but rather the unconscious interplay between the two over time; therefore, it is also important to note that this means that it is not fixed nor permanent and can be changed.

Bourdieu often used sport metaphors when discussing habitus, referring to it as a “feel for the game.” A skilled baseball player “just knows” when to swing at a 95 MPH fastball without having to consciously think about it; this is how each of us navigate different social situations - by having a “feel for the game.”

Habitus includes our taste for cultural products such as art, food, and style. Bourdieu used French society to demonstrate how tastes in art are linked to a citizen’s social class position, arguing that aesthetic sensibilities are shaped by culturally ingrained habitus. For example, a taste for fine art is usually shared by individuals of the upper-class, as they have been exposed to and trained to appreciate it from an early age. Working-class individuals, generally, have not had access to forms of fine art, thus they have not had the opportunity to cultivate the habitus appropriate to the fine art “game.”

Bourdieu states that habitus is often so deeply ingrained that people often mistake the feel for the game as natural instead of culturally developed; this often leads to justifying social inequality because it is (mistakenly) believed that some people have a more natural disposition to finer things. This demonstrates how social order is progressively inscribed in people’s minds through cultural systems like education, language, judgements, values, methods of classification, and everyday activities, leading to the unconscious acceptance of social differences and hierarchies and a sense of “one’s place.”

Habitus helps us explain why wealthier countries do not often make concessions via the climate crisis to those in the global south; although it is proven time and again that it is the wealthier countries producing the mass majority of all waste while Indigenous and other non-white or Western communities suffer the brunt of climate change.

At the core of white supremacy lies the ideology of separation. Dividing humans from the land and separating those humans from each other into classes by race. Similarly, capitalism also benefits from separating Indigenous peoples from their cultures. The kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for the Americas served to both break the bond between Africans and their land via literal separation as well as replace the Native American workforce that was being processed onto reservations and/or terminated in the largest genocide in history. This separation of culture is also seen through such decrees as the horrifying Indian Act, which served to support such practices as residential schools, anti-Indigenous laws, etc. Indigenous identities and traditions (i.e. spiritual rituals, fashions, mannerisms, etc.) were deemed illegal. And where there was once abundance throughout the Americas, consumer manipulation tactics such as influencing a scarcity mentality play out as a way to drive capitalistic competition.

Indigenous people’s relationship to ancestral lands are the source of cultural, spiritual, and social identity and form the basis of their traditional knowledge systems.

Racism and Capitalism grow from the same roots, sharing many of the same underpinning values and beliefs:

  • White supremacy – some people have more value than others

  • Colonialism – some cultures have more value than others

  • Meritocracy - some people have more value than others, usually based upon societal definitions of ‘success’

  • Entitlement/privilege - “We deserve…”

  • Ownership - right to possess or control

  • Capitalist economics - focus on profit and competition - not human needs

Racism and capitalism are the dark origins of climate change. And so climate and racial justice are linked. Frames of racism and environmental genocide:

  • Internalized

  • Interpersonal

  • Institutional

  • Systematic

Gender and Sexual Sovereignty

When Native peoples identify themselves with the Earth, they, themselves, are identifying as Mother Nature. Land has always been assigned a gender, primarily female (fertile, beautiful, passive, virgin, spoils of war, a shrew to tame) in order to justify colonial control and abuse. Thus, the taking back of Indigenous land aligns with reclaiming the feminine nature of our existence, while fighting racism and capitalism, we are also fighting the patriarchy.

The bodies of Indigenous women hold a great deal of meaning: signifying the land itself, of loyalties more sacred than that found in political orders of the material world, and of the continuation of Indigenous life. Because of this, manifestations, such as Indian Acts, demonstrate the weaponization of conformity and kinship, as we see a redefining of the social political status of Indigenous women and their offspring through sexual relations with White men, thus pulling away from the concepts of empowerment and tribe.

White heteropatriarchical racism and sexual conquest were key components of the genocide of Native Americans; while religion was used as the primary excuse to force Euro-western sexual norms upon Native American female, male, and alternative genders, sexual colonization is a longstanding aspect of cultural genocide. Teachings of strict binary classifications, damnation, original sin, and other foreign ideas infected the broad, colorful culture of Indigenous sexuality.

“Real men don’t ask; they take!” Ideals within toxic masculinity culture are taken to monstrous extremes as emphasis is placed on the concept of disconnection, apathy, of taking matters into your own hands, and of asserting yourself as having the right to dominate others even unto death.

Taking into account the past 500 years of this precedent being set in the Americas, it should be no surprise that minority women are statistically more likely to find themselves victims of (sexual) assault. Indigenous women face murder rates more than 10 times higher than the national average of any other ethnicity. One-third of all Indigenous women in the United States and Canada go missing or are found murdered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is their third leading cause of death among 10 - 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 - 34 years of age. And unlike traditional criminal behavior in which the ethnicity of the victim matches the ethnicity of the perpetrator, attacks on Indigenous women are usually found to be rallied by White males. Oil and gas industries often create camps near or on Indigenous territory where non-Indigenous men with no connection to the community occupy land that is residentially Indigenous-owned. With few laws or reinforcement of restrictions, this breeds opportunities for invisible bordertown violence, and because of the near absence of cooperation between state, local, and tribal law enforcements, investigation processes are practically non-existent. This cycle perpetuated by corporations, governments, and police encourages the violence through the use of gaslighting on a mass scale, of silencing the voices of concerned friends, family, and allies, of erasing the presence of their misdeeds from history altogether.

Women are disproportionately i